Morikawa, Lee advance to match play

Northfield, Ill. (August 2, 2018) – Medalist honors weren’t on the mind of Cole Hammer, of Houston, when he woke up for the final 36 holes of stroke play at the Western Amateur on Thursday.

But after a course-record, 10-under 61 in the third round at Sunset Ridge Country Club, he started giving it serious thought.

Hammer, a freshman at Texas, followed the bogey-free round with a 67 in the afternoon and ended up tying for first place with Sam Stevens, of Wichita, Kansas, with a tournament-record total of 261 (23 under).

Both players advanced to the Sweet 16 – the match-play portion of the Western Amateur – for the first time.

“I got on the range this morning and hit it really, really good,” said Hammer, who is playing his second Western Amateur “The putter felt good on the putting green, too. I actually missed about a 10-footer uphill on No. 1 this morning. Then it was off to the races.”

The former stroke-play record was set by Aron Price in 2004 at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, when he posted 265.

After starting with a par on No. 1, Hammer birdied five of his next six holes and added five more birdies on the second nine to finish with a personal-best round. He closed out the day by carding four birdies on his final six holes.

“Leading into the 36-hole day, I just wanted to make the Sweet 16,” Hammer said. “To be 10 under took a little pressure off and gave me a little bit of an ability to be aggressive.”

A former player at Oklahoma State, Stevens was steady all day. He earned a share of medalist honors by rolling in a 50-foot putt on his 36th hole.

“I was just trying to two-putt it,” said Stevens, a veteran of three Western Amateurs. “I hit it a little too hard, and it broke right in there. Definitely not expecting to make that one.”

In making the Sweet 16 for the first time, Hammer and Stevens join golf luminaries such as Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Coming off a win at the Pacific Coast Amateur last week, Isaiah Salinda, of South San Francisco, California, took solo third at 20 under. The No. 2-ranked player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking, Collin Morikawa, of La Canada Flintridge, California, finished fourth at 19 under.

Brandon Wu, of Scarsdale, California, posted the best score of the fourth round with a 64. Tied for 21st after 36 holes, Wu, a senior at Stanford, birdied four of his final five holes to secure his first trip to the Sweet 16. He shared fifth place with Min Woo Lee, of Perth, Australia, at 18 under.

“My game plan will change based on who I am playing, but I will do my best to hit fairways, greens and make putts,” said Wu, looking ahead to match play.

Lee, ranked No. 4, is back in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. He advanced to the semifinals in 2017 at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois. The No. 3-ranked player, John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Kentucky, qualified for match play after finishing 13th at 14 under.

Local favorite Patrick Flavin, of Highwood, Illinois, earned his first match play appearance in his fourth Western Amateur, tying for seventh at 17 under.

Davis Shore, of Brentwood, Tennessee, finished stroke play at 11-under par and won a six-man playoff for the final spot in match play, making a birdie on the third playoff hole.

Notable players who didn’t qualify for match play include No. 1-ranked Braden Thornberry, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, and 2017 Sweet 16 qualifier John Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

Stevens called earning co-medalist recognition an “awesome honor, for sure.” But he’s not completely satisfied.

“There’s another tournament that starts tomorrow,” he said. “I’m obviously really excited, and I’m playing pretty good. If I can be medalist and win match play, then I will talk about how special that is.”